Bloor or BoJo?

Well, what a weird time we’ve had of it, politically, eh? While we wouldn’t endorse Boris Johnson OR Jeremy Corbyn (or that lady from the Lib-Dems we can’t remember) we DO want to see John Bloor knighted for services to the bike industry. Or even made Prime Minister!

Perhaps like some politicians, John Bloor has been wary of the press. He could be quirky, moody, tetchy, but he’s been magnificent and never hidden in a fridge to dodge questions or never apologised when things have gone wrong. Why-oh-why can’t he be our Prime Minister?

After all, let’s not beat around the bush when we say this – no John Bloor – no Triumph motorcycles.

That means no modern Triumph Tiger 900 – the new machine. Or no Rocket III (the saucy new one) that looks amazing, or none of the various Daytona 675s, Speed Triples, Street Triples or the lovely retro Speed Twins, Bonnies or the like from 1991 onwards. Bloomin’ hell – we’d have a Bloor over Brexit, any time!

A brief look at John Bloor’s biography should hint at where his single-mindedness comes from. John Stuart Bloor, the son of a miner, was born in a south Derbyshire mining village in the early-1940s.  After finishing his education at just 15 years-old, Bloor began his career working for a local building contractor. 

At 17 he took the plunge and became self-employed, initially as a plasterer, before taking on a project that led to him building his first house – all before his 20th birthday: imagine Boris or Corbyn being even half as self-made at that age?

Bloor Homes completed its first house back in 1963 and later became one of the largest, privately-owned house building companies in the UK, completing the production of more than 2000 homes a year, ranging from small apartments to seven-bedroom luxury properties.

In the early 1980s, with Bloor Homes doing well, Bloor was looking for something else to do. In interviews since, Bloor was adamant that his decision in 1983 to purchase the intellectual property rights to the Triumph name wasn’t a nostalgic one: this was purely business. He wanted a manufacturing business that made an end product.

Bloor himself was a biker – but not much of one. In an interview with Triumph’s Torque magazine of the mid-2000s, he said: “When I was 16 I had a Tiger Cub. To be honest, I didn’t think a lot of it, as water used to get into the points. Coming back from work on a winter’s night, you’d pull over and have to start fiddling with the points. I wasn’t best pleased!”

In the 36 years since acquiring the Triumph name, it’s fair to say that there have been plenty of ups and downs. Bloor’s prickly nature with the British press hasn’t helped (sounds like Boris and Corbyn, eh?) he’s granted few interviews and in a number of those he’s swung from being moody and aggressive to open, effusive and brilliant, showing a real knowledge of the modern motorcycling market. You don’t get to where John Bloor is in life by suffering fools and you cross him at your peril.

Bloor himself often side-stepped any glory at what Triumph has become since it first showed its range at the 1990 Cologne Show – that’s nearly 30 years back. Instead he talks of the team that assembled at Bedworth back in the late 1980s. He talks of the engineers, of the graduates and the cherry-picked staff (such as the recently retired Bruno Tagliaferri nabbed from Honda) who have helped make Triumph the force it is in the UK and world-wide motorcycle market. He also talks of the sheer effort from all staff to come back from the devastating fire of 2002 at Factory 1. He’s a real leader who inspires the troops.

We mentioned him being dismissive of the British UK bike press: instead he admired the German motorcycling magazines with their Teutonic/anal testing methods. And – while Triumph chased the Japanese through the 1990s until the early 2000s – a change of tack by ‘going their own way’ saw them really become a force to be reckoned with in biking. No more the four-cylinder Japanese way, instead it was a wide-range of twins and triples that had character in every pore and that were as well put together as any Japanese or European machine. Soon we – and the world – were won over.

Industry awards would come in the two-wheeled sector and outside, too, including the British Brand of the Year in the 2004 Walpole Awards, joining such prestigious company as Land Rover and Burberry.

Today, in this world of Boris and Brexit and almost isolationism it’s worth noting that Triumph has factories across the globe and influence across the world. We here at CB-NET think it’s about time his vision, investment, influence and passion should be rewarded with no less than a knighthood.

No passion for the bikes? Nah, we don’t believe it. He once told his in-house magazine that he put his business card on the saddle of a Hinckley-generation Triumph. He admitted: “It was Llandudno in North Wales. All I did was put my card on his bike and I wrote on it: ‘Thank you for buying one of our bikes.’”

No, John Bloor, thank you for bringing Triumph back from the dead. If you don’t deserve a knighthood from Boris Johnson/The Queen in the New Year Honours List, we don’t know who does…